The Art of Sniffing
- Author: Andre Becker
- Publication Date: August 17, 2023
How incredible would it be to be able to smell animals in the world around us? What if our sense of smell allowed us to perceive animals in a totally different way. We could imagine the lives of mountain lions, all through our noses! For 4 days, I experienced the world through smell thanks to Felidae’s mountain lion scat survey assisted by Working Dogs for Conservation. Okay, I couldn’t experience the animal world through my nose, but I got to follow around two fantastic working dogs that could.
Tule, a Belgian Malinois, and Fenton, an Australian Shepherd, took me for a tour of Marin and San Mateo. Mountain lions live around us; I can say this definitively after spending time following these dogs and their keen noses. Mountain lion feces aka scats are obvious once you know what you are looking for, or at least I thought this. Little did I know that these dogs would prove that my eyesight is nothing compared to their noses. Little by little, scat by scat, the dogs showed me a world which I would have never been able to create, at least with any certainty.
The scat survey was also great because of the people that I got to work with over my four days of volunteering. I spent time with people that were passionate about learning more about the animals that we share space with; whether it was the Felidae staff, Working Dogs for Conservation staff, or other volunteers. Knowledge was passed to me about conservation of mountain lions in the Bay Area, Black-Footed Ferrets in Montana, and many other animals. Outstanding information that I can build on and pass on that I could not have gained otherwise.
Now when I go hiking I cannot help but see scat and wish that I had Tule or Fenton to tell me whether it was a mountain lion. Instead, I may have to start sticking my nose to the ground and hope I gain the superpower of a dog's nose.